Monday, October 07, 2013

Hungary Pig

This little piggy weighs in at about 160 kilos and was raised on a small farm in north eastern Hungary to provide food, particularly lard, for the winter
A couple of months ago there was an email from Opentrips about an adventure to Hungary, specifically to a place called Mád. One pleasure of subscribing to this site is the momentary fantasy of going - trying new places, food, drink - cooking and eating in the company of  a bunch of others who also define this as pleasure.  

Full of things I didn't know - local wines to try - Aszu and  Furmint, fishing for perch pike and carp, cooking Hungarian food using local ingredients. At its centre was the killing and processing of a pig. I eat meat, am careful about where it comes from but I'd never been there at the death of  anything larger than a few fish and a lot of yabbies in the year we lived in Bourke. I wanted to know how the pig changes from animal to meat

The day started early - we all met up before 7am for a shot of Palinka - the local brandy, the traditional way to start.

There were about 15 of us all together, a ragtag assortment of people - curious foodies, bloggers, wine merchants, a journalist commissioned to write about the day, and a raw food chef who wanted to know if he would still eat meat occasionally  after seeing a pig killed for consumption.

The day was a bit drizzly, the only rain we saw all week.

The pig was to be slaughtered outside and then the carcass is broken down inside where everything is laid out ready.

Opentrips organiser Florian kept the whole trip running smoothly all week,

it all seemed deceptively simple with the invaluable skills and local knowledge of Gergely.

Once we were set to go, the pig, which was never frightened at any point, was taken from the cage with a squeal of incredible outrage. That sound will stay with me forever.

Rapidly stunned then the pig's throat was cut while half a dozen strong men held it down, the whole thing took less than a minute.

The fresh blood is collected into bowls and started to coagulate almost immediately. It was soon cooked up into a blood stew for breakfast - nothing goes to waste.

Once the pig has been bled out, it is moved from the concrete onto grass - the half dozen strong men were back in action.

High flame is used to burn off all the hair, a surprising amount.

Then the blackened carcass is scraped and scrubbed clean with a stiff brush in a bucket of water.

This is the end of the pig being a complete animal.

The head is cut off to be used in a couple of dishes later in the morning

The work of breaking the carcass down begins once the intestines have been carefully removed

to be cooked up to make fresh offal sausage later

The caul fat is also kept for cooking, just like everything else.

The big red pan is water boiling with garlic to which the chef adds the lumps of coagulated blood, then stirs gently to make sure it doesn't all break up. Once the blood is cooked with some onions and the brains too, a generous dollop of  lard is added to finish.

Breakfast is served - it was incredibly good to eat and very rich. One of the world's most amazing breakfasts

The butcher and his assistant brought the carcass inside to break it down with impressive skill into the various cuts of meat.

Outside over a sort of kettle drum fire chef had lots of pans bubbling away, including one with all the bits from the head


it was chopped and mixed with lots of paprika it was stuffed into the pig's stomach

Then sewn up with needle and thread to safely encase all the meat.

It was boiled again for an hour or more and then, once cooled, it was pressed to make a sort of Hungarian brawn

The butchery was noticably different to the way pigs are broken down in England. All the meat is very lean - all fat is stripped off, including from the hams. Its kept to get the family through the winter - there is no other source of oil or fat available for cooking, so the primary purpose of raising pigs is for their fabulous lard.

There was plenty of it, though normally this pig would have been fattened further and then killed later in the year once winter was underway,

All the meat we didn't eat on the day was given to the local old people's home for the winter.

The hams were put to soak in water, salt and masses of garlic. They will be turned daily for three or four weeks till they are cured. Then - the vagaries of  Customs allowing - they will be shipped to Peckham to be served in some style at Peckham Bazaar.

Some of the fat was diced into sort of uber fatty lardon and then heated in a huge pan to be stirred with an enormous stick for a couple of hours.

The locals assured us this was the best thing about the day (the doctors call it cardiac soup) and it was amazing to catch a waft of that lovely pig fat melting and melting

till it reached a point of sort of hot confit - with about two thirds of the fat rendered and the rest hot fat salty crispy delights to go with beer.

The intestines were drained after boiling for a couple of hours, then minced

and added to rice and herbs and spices and turned  into liver sausage

that were then poached before being barbecued for dinne

All the bits and bobs of flesh - and there was a remarkable amount - were mushed together with shed loads of garlic and lots of paprika and dried herbs before mincing

and becoming big fat vibrant spicy sausage, also barbecued for our dinner.

Lunch was a surprisingly delicate soup made with some meat, bones and vegetables made amazing with a sprinkle of chopped pepper at the end

Then there was stew - all the gelatinous bits were boiled up together with quinces and peppers and things then finished with cabbage - both choucroute and finely shredded fresh - to make a gloriously hearty bowl of lunch accompanied by generous quantities of both dry and sweet furmint.

We all drifted off at that point for an hour before coming back for the final meal.

Had to be barbecue!!

We had lots of local pickles that were a great accompaniment to most of our meals, and the ones we had on the last night were made by a few from the group using veg we'd picked on the first day.

Perfect foil to the jerk spice ribs and the fab paprika sausages.

All that lard had one final use - hot lardy cakes fresh from the wood oven and served with raspberry coulis that had been cooked up earlier in the day. Lovely hot crunchy mouthfuls.

And this is what it is all about - look at this lovely pile of pig fat - it will keep the food rich and nourishing all through the cold winter.

Overall it was a most extraordinary day, I learnt a lot, ate some amazing food and will appreciate the meat I eat all the more.

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

What an utterly riveting post, Bron. I am not sure I would want to be present at the death of any animal (other than, say, an oyster!!) but I realise this is hypocritical, seeing as I cheerfully eat them! Hats off to you for doing this. Utterly fascinating to see how absolutely nothing goes to waste.